TheTradition of Respect and Obedience:
Deuteronomy, 5 th Book of Moses, The Old Testament, The Holy Bible: Chapter 10, verse 16:
“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff necked.”
The word ‘Namah’ means one that bends which implies obedience. The one word ‘Namaskar’ represents the full spectrum of the legacy of India’s Culture.
I shall begin this entry with a traditional greeting. As a kid I was trained to greet and acknowledge others. The greeting is called ‘Namaskar’ or ‘Namaste’. I would begin by greeting all of you who may read this entry with my ‘Namaskar’. Namaskar is the essence of our Culture and this single word can represent the full spectrum of our Cultural legacy.
I served in Uniform. The lesson I grasped is that to Salute is the foundation upon which the entire structure of military discipline is built.Service in the Armed Forces depends upon team work.The team structure depends upon the ability of team members to recognize and acknowledge each other at all times. I salute to acknowledge the person as a member of my team. Army accomplishes great things only when the team members follow this ground rule for their conduct and behavior. Namaskar is the tool given to me by the Culture of my Land and this tool shapes my attitude and personal behavior and this tool helps me to attain my life’s goals.
Culture is defined as learned or acquired behavior in contrast to biological behavior which is genetically endowed. Human Culture is defined as learned behavior acquired by individuals as members of a social group.Culture denotes a people’s heritage of custom and belief. It is a system of ideas that has been transmitted down through the generations. It includes assumptions about the world, about life and existence, rules and ways to act, goals and ways of achieving them. People’s ideas about ways to live may shape the ways they actually do live.Beginning at birth, each individual is encultured by a body of norms governing behavior and other knowledge that the society has. Thus Cultural Heritage can be defined as the sum total of human knowledge and acquired behavior. Namaskar represents the essence of my Cultural heritage. Culture gives people a sense of personal identity. Defining that ‘identity’ helps in understanding the Culture. Namaskar is the behavior I learned and Namaskar defines my ‘identity’. It is a behavior transmitted to me through the generations.
Culture of the Land:
The Land of India in our Culture and tradition is referred to as the land of Bharat. My purpose is to learn the ideas and thoughts that have found their roots in this particular Land. Ideas and thoughts help in developing and defining our attitudes.Our attitudes are reflected in our behaviors.The behavior which springs from the seeds of ideas and thoughts that were planted in the soil could be described as the Culture of the Land. The ancient Hindu Scripture known as Rig Veda has recommended that we should keep our minds open to receive noble thoughts from all directions. I studied Natural Sciences and I gained much of my information from ideas and thoughts expressed in books that were published in the West.The basic idea and thought that I had received was that we need to carefully sort out the information that we gather. Assimilation of information would be possible only when facts are considered in a systematic manner. I learned about plants and animals as a part of my study called Biological Science. Living things are connected and are related to each other.This interconnectedness and the interrelatedness describes the ecological system.There is a great amount of diversity in nature.To understand living things, we need to group them and learn about them as a part of an ecological system. We can not understand existence if we look at individual creatures.The reactions between the players of a given geographical area gives a better understanding of life and existence. I would like to use this kind of scientific tool to identify ideas and thoughts.Some ideas and thoughts could be assigned to a particular land in the same manner that a natural scientist would identify some species are ‘NATIVE’ and others as ‘NON-NATIVE’ in the description of an Ecological System. To prove that an idea is culturally derived, we need to demonstrate that the idea is transmitted through generations.To arrive at ideas that originated in the Land of India, I would prefer to obtain a sense of direction from my great grand mother, my grand mothers and my mother. If an idea was not known to them, it may not be a part of my cultural legacy. If they had known very little, I would deem it as my good fortune and that little is my whole inheritance. Namaskar thus represents the best of my acquired knowledge.
The importance of Namaskar:
The word Namaskar is usually accompanied with the action of joining hands and bringing them together in front of the body with the elbows flexed and the neck slightly bent forwards.The joining of hands symbolizes respect and the bending of the neck signifies obedience. A person with ‘stiff neck’ is generally considered to be disobedient, rude, arrogant or proud. Respect can not be shown if the person does not display an attitude of obedience.The very essence of Indian Culture can be stated as that of showing respect and obedience. This is the most important behavior that is expected of every one. It is not merely about showing respect and of obedience to the Gods that people worship. Even the Gods that people worship also implicitly observe the rule about showing respect and obedience.This social expectation rules every relationship and activity. It is the basic expectation, let it be parent-child relationship, husband-wife relationship, teacher-student relationship, employer-employee relationship, the Ruler and the subject relationship, the relationship between siblings and even between friends. Respectful conduct is expected while receiving guests, while dealing with any elderly person even though the person may not be related. In addition, several plants, trees, birds, animals, rivers, the sea and the the hills and mountains enjoy a special status and are treated with great respect.This social behavior is encouraged at all times and specially kids are trained and tutored to display this behavior. I grew up in India and my childhood is shaped by learning this behavior. Also my culture has given the freedom of choice. I am free to worship several entities in addition to God. If I am not inclined to worship God, I may choose a living person, a plant, a tree, an animal, some element of nature or even a name and shapeless stone and I am free to worship that object with the same and similar amount of respect that one may give to God.The Gods of my Culture would not get angry or jealous if I am totally preoccupied with showing respect to an object of my choice. Most people of the Land of India get used to showing respect to a variety of objects.
Showing respect and obedience is considered as the most important learning tool to acquire humility. Through humility, the individual can subdue his ‘ego’. Ego is viewed as a great obstacle in the pursuit of self-knowledge. Self-Knowledge is the chisel that lets an individual to break the shackles of all attachments. Freedom from all attachments is described as Moksha or Liberation and as Mukti or Release.This cultural norm of showing respect and obedience and the use of Namaskar would help us in attaining life’s goal or to realize man’s purpose in life.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Personal Number: MS-8466 Rank. Captain AMC/SSC; Personal Number: MR-03277K Rank. Major AMC/DPC
Medical Officer, South Column, Operation Eagle,
Directorate General of Security,
Office of Inspector General Special Frontier Force,
East Block V, Level IV, R.K. Puram, New Delhi – 110 022.